Thinking of learning French in London? I checked out a French course at the Institut francias – here’s my diary. October Week 1- It’s the first weekend of October and I’m down at the Institut francais in Kentish Town for my first French beginner class. After signing in at reception I make not the most auspicious start as I manage to initially sit down in an advanced class, phew, I thought damn this is gonna be a tough beginners class as students naturally chatted away to each other in perfect French.
‘Ah, ha ha, no this is not the beginners that is next door,” said what I presumed was the teacher. Relieved at realising it was not just me but everyone was actually pretty good at French but a little sad to be leaving the teacher so soon, who appeared to have a certain je ne sais quoi like Catherine Deneuve or maybe that was just my over active imagination, to find the right class.
This Saturday also coincides with an open day where people can get a chance to see what the classes are like and speak to a number of teachers and people who run and teach the courses at the Institut francias. There are a selection of pastries and tea, coffee and juices laid out which is a nice touch seeing it’s early and a few would have probably missed breakfast. There is also lots of literature around about other activities that you can do at the Institut.
So to the lesson it was a small class of around 8 which seemed like a good number and with people from all around the world, I think there was like 6 or 7 different nationalities. It was also good to know and feel that everyone was genuinely at a beginner’s standard. I had been on a Spanish ‘beginners’ course in Central London a while ago which became apparent quite quickly that many in the class were not in fact actually beginners but probably more intermediate.
I put it down to how people don’t want to sign up for an intermediate and prefer a beginners as they are uncertain of their skill level. But as I talked to people I would hear things like, ‘yeah I lived in Spain for four years’, ‘my boyfriend is Spanish’ or my ‘parents live in Spain and I visit a lot’ or ‘we had a parrot named Francois.’ This meant the course was very frustrating as the teacher did not want to hold back those that obviously already had a good basic grasp and so moved the class forward too quickly for real beginners to keep up.
So discouraged I left the course after 3 weeks. I later bumped into a student who told me that a number of students had complained and actually got a refund. Anyway, so it was good to see that Institut francais had ascertained people’s level’s right for classes.
At the outset of the class we were explained that all classes would generally only be conducted by the teacher in French. As French has a lot of similar words to English it was not difficult at times to guess the meaning if unsure or the teacher would draw a picture or act out a little charades so we got the meaning. The lesson was taught at a good pace by our friendly and cheerful teacher and the three hours seemed like a good duration. Homework was handed out at the end of the class.
After starting the course on a Saturday I switched to actually start my course proper on a weekday which I worked out would suit me better. I suppose it’s what’s better for personal lifestyles and commitments. The Saturday morning classes run for three hours rather than two hours for the weekday evening course. One thing maybe to take into consideration is that on a Saturday morning you may be a little fresher than for instance a weekday evening when most people are coming straight after a day at work.
The Institut francais is one of the most well known French language learning institutions in London and has run courses at their South Kensington premises for a long time now. The Kentish Town courses are relatively new but ideal for those who live more east or north London way. I also choose the Insitut francais as I liked the idea of the other stuff they run like movies, events, ect ( of which more of later).
Image Institut francais Facebook Page
We had a few more people join the group this week so we had around 12 in the class. Most of us had not got the textbooks as yet but was not a problem as handouts were provided. Our lesson was a good recap of what we had learned in the first week and introduced more vocab, dialogue and numbers. In the lesson you could tell those that had put in more time on revision and practised a little more as they were confident and keen to show that they had.
With only one evening a week to get more out of the classes you really do have to try and put in some revision as the class itself is not enough to fully benefit. With busy work schedules and life stuff not an easy thing to do but obviously really helps – at worse way doing your homework. The homework is challenging without being excessive and when we go through it in class it bolsters your confidence early on in the lesson.
Find out more about French classes and a host of other activities at www.institut-francais.org.uk
Books about France
But there is no mistaking that when the French put their minds to it they can create some masterpieces. Not surprising when you consider that it was the French inventors and photographic pioneers the Lumiere Brothers who devised an early motion-picture camera and projector called the Cinématographe and which the word cinema derived from.
Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour is a compelling drama that has a lot going for it including fine performances from its lead actors. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are excellent, Seydoux in particular is captivating, providing a nuanced performance of real depth.